Who Is Really Looking Out For Chattanooga?

Monday, April 14, 2014

There has been more than enough debate about what the National Labor Relations Board should do next, how the UAW’s presence could impact Chattanooga, Volkswagen’s stance on unions, and scandals by local politicians Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam.

Why aren’t we talking about the workers instead of rehashing these topics? 

Some might assume that Volkswagen workers have had our say, having cast our vote. It’s these same people who have the misconception that southern workers don’t want unions. The reality is that some workers didn’t vote at all, and if less than 50 workers voted the other way, we’d have our union today. That’s worth another look. 

Remember when the presidential race was close in 2000 and we looked at every hanging chad? It was because we were trying to determine the voter’s intent. Regardless of the initial outcome of the union vote at the Volkswagen plant, I can say that voter intent in the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant is 100 percent clear: our intent is to make our workplace safer, more efficient and stronger in job security. With a union, we want the opportunity to join other Volkswagen workers in having a voice and playing a role in the future of Volkswagen in Chattanooga. We want a voice to participate in discussions and provide input on improvements that can be made to our work lives and production processes. We want a way to express any concerns and being part of a union and works council would provide that vehicle. Most of all, we want to collaborate so that both the company and workers succeed, and to make Chattanooga better, not destroy it.

But, politicians have suggested otherwise, threatening what’s to come for the Volkswagen plant during a firestorm of interference. They say that a “yes” vote will potentially harm the south’s ability to build a thriving auto industry and hurt Chattanooga’s economic future.

That’s not the case. In fact, there is no question that it is the politicians themselves who threaten to destroy our community. Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson, the Republican leader in the State Assembly, and other Tennessee politicians threatened to withhold incentives for possible expansion of the plant. Governor Bill Haslam offered Volkswagen $300 million in incentives, but only if the UAW lost. This threat was made behind what Governor Haslam believed was closed doors - it was found written at the top of the confidential document. Senator Bob Corker made several public statements that he was assured that if workers voted down the union, VW would bring production of an SUV to Chattanooga.

And, most recently, confidential emails obtained by Nashville reporter Phil Williams reveal that Corker’s chief of staff was in direct contact with anti-union organizations about the message of their unprecedented campaign of threats and intimidation. 

What a large web of lies and absurd measures that these Republicans took.  All to keep Volkswagen workers from voting for a union. The real insult is to the workers who care very much about our community. As union members, we would strengthen Chattanooga. How could we want to do anything else but improve our home and make it stronger?

We are already the caretakers of the Volkswagen plant; why not assume that role more formally? Volkswagen has made co-determination an integral part of their global business model – meaning workers have an integral role in managing the company – and they credit it with much of their success. Every Volkswagen plant, except the plants in China, Russia and Chattanooga, are represented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council. If we had a seat, we’d have a say regarding future production decisions and where products end up, giving Chattanooga workers a strong voice for winning new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee. 

So, after all of this, who do you trust most with Chattanooga’s economic future? I hope the NLRB lets us decide our own futures.

Michael Cantrell
Cleveland 


Worse And Worser

We hear a lot about voter apathy, citizens of this, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, these United States of America, who fail to take advantage of their right, nay, accept their responsibility to participate in government of this great nation. How many of us know citizens who don't vote? Worse yet, how many of us know citizens who aren't even registered ... (click for more)

Howley Has New Ideas And New Energy For Signal Mountain

Over the last several years, I have had the opportunity to serve with Chris Howley on the Signal Mountain Recreation Advisory Board.  During this time, I obtained an insight into the qualities that make Chris Howley an outstanding candidate to serve on the Signal Mountain Town Council.Chris has spent countless hours on the board overseeing the numerous recreation leagues and ... (click for more)

Chickamauga Lock To Reopen As Soon As Next Thursday

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  plans to reopen Chickamauga Lock to all navigation traffic as early as next Thursday. An inspection of the upper gate anchorage and a repair plan were completed today. Chickamauga Lock closed on Monday after a routine inspection revealed a crack in the anchorage of the upper gate. Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

GPS Advances To Division IIAA Soccer Championship

MURFREESBORO - GPS defeated Brentwood Academy 3-0 to advance to the finals of the TSSAA Division II-AA soccer tournament.   The Bruisers scored one first half goal in the 38th minute off the foot of senior Lindsay Rufolo.   Fourteen minutes into the second half Emily Large added the first of two insurance goals. Six minutes later at the 60-minute mark Catherine ... (click for more)

Hixson Clinches 6-AA Title With Shutout Over Brainerd

Just about any coach will tell you that winning ugly is always better than winning pretty. Such was the case at Hixson Community Stadium on a frigid Halloween night as the host Wildcats finished off their regular season with a 19-0 win over the Brainerd Panthers. Hixson improves to 8-2 overall and 6-0 in District 6-AA while Brainerd is now 3-7 overall and 3-3 in 6-AA. It ... (click for more)